Taking the Sting Out Of It – Nettle Risotto

Nettles consume the phlegmatic superfluities which winter has left behind. Nicholas Culpepper 1653

nettles
Like many allotments, ours has the occasional weed. Indeed; we have, the last eight years, been battling an attack of bind weed, with occasional skirmishes with ground elder, nettles and goose grass. Many of these weeds were essential foods in Medieval times. People like Nicholas Culpepper knew the nutritional benefits of these now unwanted plants; they even put them in books such as The Fromond List (a list of ‘herbys necessary for a gardyn’), compiled by Surrey landowner Thomas Fromond in about 1525.

Across the world nettles for example are used in many dishes, from frittata, and a Scandinavian soup, to a version of the Greek spanakopita. The Italians seem to be particular fond of the humble nettle; so, as the nettle ‘crop’ at the allotment was looking particularly lush and fresh, I decided to make use of this foraged food for a risotto. Nettles are not known as Stinging Nettles for no reason, they have many hollow stinging hairs called trichomes on the leaves and stems, which act like hypodermic needles, injecting histamine and other chemicals that produce a stinging sensation. In order to avoid the obvious issue of being stung when picking I wore gloves and picked only the top few leaves, placing them straight into a last of bag as I did.20140430-082937.jpg
You will need
Two large handfuls of young nettle leaves
1 litre chicken stock
50g cubed butter
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
250g Arborio rice
A small glass of dry white wine
50g grated Parmesan
A handful of toasted pine nuts

Start by blanching the nettles for a few minutes in boiling salted water, before whizzing in the food processor with a little liquid to make a purée. Next heat the stock, you want it to be just simmering so when you add it gradually to the rice it doesn’t reduce the temperature of huge dish too much and slow the cooking. In a thick bottomed pan, sweat the onion gently in a little butter and olive oil until it’s translucent and soft. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes, before adding the rice. Cook the rice for a few minutes until it starts to become slightly translucent, then pour in the the glass of wine. You want to let the wine evaporate until the onion and rice are nearly dry, then add stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly, each time waiting for the liquid to evaporate before adding the next ladle.

Continue this process for about ten minutes, then add the nettle purée. Stir into the rice and continue to add the stock until the rice is al dente. When the rice is ready, add the cubed butter, seasoning and Parmesan and put the lid on the pan. Leave the risotto to rest for a couple of minutes, before beating the butter and cheese into the rice and serving. Sprinkle the toasted pine nuts on top and add a little more Parmesan and a drizzle of good olive oil.
Nettle risotto

Nettles are such a great resource, which as well as being nutritious and plentiful are free! Why not take the sting out of your food bill and give it a go. Any other suggestions for foraged greens?

I’m dead chuffed to be shortlisted in the FOOD category for the BIBS (Brilliance in Blogging Award). If you think I deserve to be in the final then please vote for me by clicking on the picture below. Thank you for all your support!

BiB Food 2014

 

 

I’m entering this recipe for Four Seasons Food celebrating the vegetables of spring.  FSF is run by Anneli at Delicieux and Louisa at Eat Your Veg who is hosting this month.

Arancini – worth having leftovers for!

Ever find you make too much risotto? I’ve become pretty good at portion control – enabling us to not waste too much food. We’re also good at using leftovers in other meals; leftover Hunter’s Chicken for example, makes a super sauce for pappardelle when pushed through a sieve and combined with a bit of the pasta cooking water

That said I always end up making too much risotto; the usual 500g packets provides enough rice for a couple of overly generous meals for two, but not three sensible sized meals. Luckily leftover risotto can be transformed into delicious Arancini; balls of risotto encased in crispy breadcrumbs. I like them so much I subconsciously over cater every time I make risotto. Arancini are easily made and comfortably use up any amount of leftover risotto.

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What you will need
Leftover risotto
Flour for dusting (seasoned with salt and pepper)
1 egg (beaten)
Breadcrumbs
Vegetable oil (or other oil suitable for deep frying)

Take your leftover risotto and form into golf ball sized balls. It helps to have wet hands to prevent the mix sticking to you. if you have some mozzarella, you can put a small piece in the centre of each ball at this point. The cheese will melt in the heat of the oil later, giving you a gooey cheesy centre. Once your rice balls are formed place them in the fridge for a few minutes to firm up. Coat the balls with breadcrumbs by rolling in the seasoned flour, then beaten egg, and finally breadcrumbs; before returning to the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil to frying temperature (a few breadcrumbs dropped into the oil should crisp in a few seconds). Lower the rice balls into the oil and cook until golden brown. I always use a saucepan, so I fry three or four balls at a time. Remove them using a slotted spoon and place on a piece of kitchen towel to absorb any excess oil. Serve warm with a tomato sauce, on their own, or cold as a great snack.

Like me you’ll be making too much risotto before you know it.